CHICAGO, IL - December 20, 2010 – The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois discovered almost 7,000 domain names are registered that include the name Santa Claus, offering children a wide range of opportunities to persuade St. Nick via email that they were nice in 2010. Before allowing children to share any personal information with a “Letter to Santa” website, the BBB Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) recommends adults carefully review such sites to determine who is seeking the information, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.
“Even Santa is required to comply with CARU’s Online Privacy Protection guidelines and the Federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "Even though some parents may be intimidated by technology, they need to supervise their child's computer use in the house as well as educate their kids on how to be safe online."
Websites should also state whether the company shares information with third parties, including advertisers, and whether the company publically discloses the information or retains the information for any future purpose.
CARU offered the following ‘Dear Santa’ site review tips:
- Keep Shared Information Limited. Websites directed to children should not ask a child to disclose more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity – a first name and email address, for instance. Limit the personal information children share with Santa and omit physical addresses; Santa already knows where all the children live.
- Age Appropriate Content. Check websites for unwelcome content. Some sites are geared toward adults and may contain language or advertising adults may not want children to see.
- Avoid Off-topic Hyperlinks. Since hyperlinks can allow children to move seamlessly from one site to another, investigate the hyperlinks to assure children don’t access inappropriate content.
· Keep the Channels of Communication Open. Let your kids know that you are always ready to talk if they are ever threatened, bullied or feel uncomfortable about an experience they had online.
“As many children are online and have numerous opportunities to link up with websites requesting personal information it is critical that parents take the time to protect personal information while staying in the holiday spirit,” added Bernas.
Federal law requires sites collecting identifying information from children under 13 to get a parent's consent first. Parents who are concerned about the safety of specific child-directed websites and advertising can file a complaint at www.caru.org/complaint
For more information on how to keep your kids safe online, please visit www.CARU.org.
Parents can also learn how to keep themselves safe from ID thieves and hackers online at www.bbb.org